Something caught my eye on Twitter last night: “When you really want to know what kind of parent you are, ask your child. Your child’s perception of your parenting matters”.
So this morning I decided to put that theory to the test. I asked my eldest trooper, Samuel, what he thought of me as a parent. I should preface this by telling you that Samuel is 9 going on 19, and that he has somehow managed to acquire the vocabulary – and temperament – of Noel Coward.
He paused for a few seconds to weigh up the possibility that this could be a trick that would impact his Christmas present haul (we told him, in the strictest confidence, that Father Christmas has covert surveillance in the kitchen, which is where we were standing at the time).
“I think you could possibly be a better parent if you let me have a paint ball party for my birthday,” was his opening shot. “No, Sam I mean what am I like as a parent? Am I loving? Am I kind? Do I do a good job?” Silence. “I think you would definitely do a better job if you let me have a paint ball party for my birthday. Am I allowed to say that?”
So I tried out the question on my middle trooper, Jude. I am convinced that he is going to be a politician, and you’ll shortly find out why. “Dad – what a question. You’re the best dad in the world!” was his immediate reply, delivered with a beaming smile. “Really? How do you know I’m the best in the world?” “Because when I was in heaven looking for a dad, I checked out every one in the world before I picked you.” I should point out that this follows on from an earlier conversation: ‘where do babies come from?’ but is still very impressive for a boy of 8. And it certainly put a spring in my step.
Finally, I asked my daughter, Liberty. “Yes” she said with all the conviction of a five year old. Before I had time to congratulate myself that two out of three wasn’t bad, she immediately followed it up with, “so can I have some Jawbreakers now?” Jawbreakers are gobstoppers with chewing gum in the middle. “No Lib, you still can’t have any Jawbreakers.” Her thoughtful response? “Fine! You’re a rubbish daddy then!”
So according to the troopers, I am somewhere between rubbish and the best dad in the world. I know I’m not perfect, but I also know that I try to be the best dad that I can be. Unfortunately, ‘right’ isn’t always popular. For example, I know my boys love me but think that their friends who get to play violent video games have won the best parent lottery. But I’m not parenting them for what they want now – I am parenting them for the adults they’ll become.
I told my wife that I am going to ask each of them of the same question on their 18th birthday. She told me not to get my hopes up.